She's got tubes coming out everywhere.” You know, she's bruised up. Matt Lauer: So when you walked in the room, what did she look like? Lisa Van Ryn: She's not going to-- Don Van Ryn: --altered -- Lisa Van Ryn: -- look like herself.
And then I just looked at Don and I said, "I think you better get on the phone." Don Van Ryn: And he told us that there had been an accident, a serious accident. And that we would need to, you know, start making our way down there. And you're hearing about all of these things that are happening because of the grave condition of your daughter. I didn't want to tie up the phone because I knew -- I was hoping and praying Colleen would get in touch with me. A truck driver had lost control of his loaded semi. They didn't know whether Laura would survive the next few hours, or if she'd ever be the same person again. Whitney's mom was hoping and praying that her daughter had also survived. Matt Lauer: Can you as closely as possible remember exactly what they said to you on that phone call? Susie Van Ryn: I don't remember specifically saying anything to her. To see my sweet sunshine girl hooked up to tubes was almost more than I could do. I just remember just holding onto Newell and holding onto Carly and just really feeling that security of just being together. Colleen Cerak: Whitney Erin Cerak, age 18 of Gay Lord, died in a tragic car accident Wednesday, April 26, 2006 in Marion, Ind. She was a freshman at Taylor University where she was growing in love and knowledge of her friend and savior, Jesus Christ. While the Ceraks tried to sum up Whitney’s life, the Van Ryns kept a round-the-clock vigil over the critically injured Laura.
Lisa Van Ryn: She was unconscious-- Susie Van Ryn: --unconscious-- Lisa Van Ryn: --is what they told us in the car. And-- did we know then that she had some broken bones, perhaps? And we knew then that she had a head injury, because they were calling to get our permission to put the spike, they call it -- tube into her head that monitors swelling or bleeding of the brain. The big rig crossed the median and sideswiped the Taylor University van, ripping it open. Two hours after the crash: April 26, 2006 Whitney Cerak's mother, Colleen, had just heard that her daughter was one of nine people involved in a deadly crash on an Indiana freeway. Colleen Cerak: I think they just told me that they were sorry. It amazes me that God has such strength when I am so weak. While Laura’s family prepared for a long struggle to save their daughter, Whitney's family couldn't yet bring themselves to say goodbye. The two families had never met, but their lives were already, inextricably, intertwined.
Now she was told Whitney had been dead for hours, her body just a few feet away. Carly Cerak: I was too emotional to have to see the body. Just the way it smelled, the way it looked, that that's what happened to Whitney. Matt Lauer: When you got to the hospital, you know, if this were a movie, the mother or the father would have walked in and said, "I know she's gone but take me to see my little girl." Colleen Cerak: You know, I have a beautiful picture of Whitney in my head. Lisa Van Ryn: But otherwise her face was-- Don Van Ryn: Well, she had a tube-- Lisa Van Ryn: --pretty intact.
So they just brought me back to a separate room and gave me her purse. I didn't want to have-- I didn't-- Matt Lauer: Did— Colleen Cerak: I keep stuff in my head and I just -- I know that I couldn't -- I wanted the picture of Whitney who was just a beautiful, living, vibrant girl instead of-- I would keep that picture in my head as opposed to, you know, a battered body. So-- Don Van Ryn: --stuck in the side of her mouth.
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